Inspiration via the simplicity of cleaning, organizing, teaching, supporting others, and being effecient via chef Thomas Keller


Chef Keller short bio. Short, inspiring, especially about cleaning, efficiency, and organization. I was inspired in my own house to continue to clean up after dinner, as a way of controlling the chaos, but also as a way of respecting our space, especially with Baby #2 on the way! Keller claims to have no special gifts in the kitchen, except those and a love of teaching and supporting his staff to excel and exceed him and his standards, and being a hard worker, efficient and organized. He also believes a bite or three is enough…A few minutes in, they actually let the reporter take a tiny camera into the French Laundry for lunch. Yumm.

Start at 5:52 minutes if you want to get to the main course of the piece.

Teaching Kids to Fly Micro Quadracopters, (and Perhaps a Life Lesson) at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire in Vermont on Lake Champlain.

documentation, General, How-Tos, Make & Fablab, Product Reviews, Video

As an experiment I gave micro quadcopter flight lessons to kids this weekend at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire. I learned a lot. My back is sore from picking up crashed drones ever 10 seconds for two days because it was a very popular booth! The lesson I learned (perhaps a life lesson) was, “When in trouble, turn off the motor; and fall gently to the grass, then get back up and try again.” In other words, resilience, persistence, and the practiced discipline to avoid uncontrolled crashes that prevent trying again, in favor of controlled crashes your craft can survive unscathed. 


Photo Slideshow
Link to Slideshow

On breaks, I managed to get some video to test the craft’s camera. With a lot of crashes, I ended up with shots of a rocket launch, lake views, inside flights, and in-tent flights of the Northern New England Drone User Group next to my table.  

The micro quad I used for this test is about the size of my hand. It’s safe since its blades spin in place if they hit skin, leaving only a sting. And it had prop guards and I stood right next to the kids with my hand near the throttle. They cost about $70 (including an HD camera now, which amazes me). Here’s a great unboxing and review of the model I usedUnboxing the Hubsan X4 H107C v2 HD. Considering it’s cost and size, and that is it designed for mostly indoor use, I think the video is remarkable. But the site is remarkable too!

The experiment worked. Kids lined up both days. It was very exhausting, since I was the only one manning the table both days (note to self). I’m still sore from running around finding the crashed copters in the grass every few minutes. It took me a day and half to realize the kids loved finding the crashed copters…duh…

The kernel I found to the teaching was helping these young new pilots turn off the motors and have a controlled crash before they had an uncontrolled crash. Controlled crashes are when you stop all the motors and the craft tumbles out of the air. This little copter doesn’t usually get hurt if it lands from any height on grass. It’s spars have break away parts that clip back together and it’s very light. It does get hurt in high speed crashes with the motors grinding the props into the ground. 

It takes a lot of practice to fight the human instinct to power up when the craft starts to get in trouble. I saw almost 100% of kids and adults power up whenever the craft got out of control or near obstacles! And everyone, even ace pilots, get in trouble. Human nature though is to save the craft and keep it flying. But, powering up almost always leads to higher speed crashes, often with the motor on causing the props to try to spin the grass, on fingers, rocks, dirt, etc. Even worse, after a crash, our instinct is to rush over to the downed craft. Rushing over to a downed craft often makes one’s hand slip on the controller causing the motors keep on struggling. This then was our challenge, to practice fighting on initial instincts. 

We only broke one craft in two days of flying, and that was because it hit a metal bar on the tent roof at just the wrong angle at full speed and I wasn’t quick enough to stop the power that one time.

Most people quickly break small RC copters and miss out on the joy of flying. I hope now there are a few more folks you there who can control their crashes, try again, and slowly near to fly in interesting places and ever higher.

My advice on moving to Vermont. The short answer from a liberal-ish democratic perspective.

General, How-Tos, Travel Reports

My Short Answer After Moving To The Town of Brattleboro in Southern VT in 2008.

Generally – A great state! I find myself amidst the voluntarily lower middle class. My friends and colleagues are mostly relatively happy hippie-ish democratic liberals who are into protecting the environment, education, local community support, and healthy living. There are also lots of retired folks, republicans, a few rich, a more poor. There’s the few homeless (more in summer) and those suffering visibly from psychological issues and drug and alcohol abuse.

The tone I experience here is somewhere between New Hampshire’s “Live Free, Or Die” independent, self-sufficiency, and the West Coast’s hippie-dippie liberalism and innovation.

Under that, I sense a deep commitment to community, family and education that crosses political lines. Most Vermonters I know seem to be able to agree on being there for one’s neighbors, supporting good public schools, farming, effective social programs, healthy local food, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends.

Finally, it’s a very small state, less then 700,000! So scale back the numbers in all your factoring.

My Advice

  • Have quick plans for food you can make for pot-luck dinner socials. So many pot lucks! And you’ll waste money if you always buy prepared food or bring booze. Sometimes I wish someone would just host a dinner, just once…
  • Even one job with low salary, but full benefits, is very valuable here. Then the other person can freelance, farm, finagle, etc.
  • Lock you car during zucchini season if you have out of state plates. If you don’t it will be full of folk’s surplus zucchinis that they are trying to get rid of.
  • Join the COOP
  • Find a CSA for local veggies and/or meat
  • Get a big freezer for blueberries and homemade pesto all year!
  • Join a board *but not too many.
  • Vote and go to town meetings and public hearings.
  • Trim your expenses and dept.
  • Get some tools
  • Plant a garden
  • Get really good snow tires in the winter (Michelin X-Ice for example).
  • Draft proof and insulate your house (consider a heat pump with Efficiency Vermont help).
  • Find the swimming holes.
  • Okay, on the snow tires…With an AWD cars, some say you don’t need ’em, but I got kids now and they make a huge difference. If you don’t have AWD, get ’em for sure.
  • Get wool socks, sweaters, hats, and wear layers. But wait for a sale if you can, at the end of winter.
  • Keep a blanket, water, and a flashlight in your car in winter.
  • Keep a swim suit, towel, blanket, sun screen and water in the car in summer.
  • Leave time to drive on the little back roads when you can, there’s so many cool little discoveries.

Teaching 3D Printing: Lessons Learned


Just finished a week long 3D printing workshop with 8 middle school students grades 4 to 7. We met 8:30-11:30am each day and used a single brand new Afinia H480 3D printer. Our main tool was We explored Autodesk’s Meshmixer the last two days.

Here’s a video of unboxing the printer, with some printing thoughts. Below that is what I learned from the week.

Here’s what I learned from the experience.

  1. If you want to print it, you’ve got to make it. You can only print designs you made, or significantly changed. I took this rule from other teachers I’d talked to. is so full of great designs to print, if you can use it, you’ll never design you own objects. As it was, a student quickly found out that iPhone and iPod cases can be imported from Thingiverse to Tinkercad and the news spread in seconds. I made the kids make significant designes, using “holes”  (negative space) in Tinkercad before I allowed these prints. And since a case takes about 2 hours, I also make original designs that were smaller have priority.
  2. If you want to print it, you’ve got to take a screen shot of it. A screenshot needed to be emailed or flashdrived to me with every .stl file to be printed. I came up with this one myself, after struggling to get students to take screenshots for their Maker Journal documentation. This solved that issue. Students didn’t mind, and then they had the screenshots they needed for their journal.
  3. Keep a Journal, but maybe it’s video. Initially I thought the students would write more then they did, but I soon saw how hard it is for the them to write documentation type writing, especially in the summer. I scaled back to them putting in screenshots of their work, with captions, and a brief paragraph of their biggest thoughts. I then captured more of their thoughts on video, which they found to b a much easier medium to communicate in.
  4. First impressions. My students thought the printer looked “old” and didn’t know that adults didn’t have this technology when they were kids. I did a little show and tell about the wonders of 3D printing to us adults, and how “additive manufacturing” is changing the way we build things, and that helped them get a sense of context.
  5. Stay with the printer. If you have an object being printed on the machine, you have to stay close to the printer and keep an eye on it. I learned this from ITP Camp at NYU. It’s too easy to print and walk away, but things can go wrong, and someone needs to stop the machine when they do.
  6. Keep it small. One printer means I scaled prints down to about an inch if I could, in order to save time on printing.
  7. Tinkercad’s intro lessons are good. Students got a lot out of using Tinerkcad’s introductory lessons.
  8. One lessons a day. Each day I tried to only teach one main thing. Day 1 was basic Tinkercad tools via their lessons and then basic shapes. Day 2: How to use the “hole” button to make negative space. This is key for realizing that Tinkercad’s simple interface can actually do much more than one initially thinks it can. Day 3: Auto alignment.
  9. As long as they are Making. Have other Making activities ready. They needed breaks from designing objects so I opended up the use of the laptops to game making, (not playing) MinecraftEDU making, watching the Sylivia Maker show, drawing, etc.

My Makerspace wishlist for K-12 Schools and College Makerspaces (aka fablabs, STEM labs, STEAM labs, hackerspaces, etc)

General, How-Tos

Folks have been asking me what I think it takes to make a Makerspace.

The short answer is people. The right person can make a space successful for very little money. Conversely, a lot of money can go to waste on equipment if the wrong person is running the show. I think the person needs to be have “EdTech” type humanizing technology skills and  the ability to use social media and media production to constantly market, document and publicize activities in the space. More support for the people aspect of Makerspaces is here: MIT FabLab Foundation, scroll down.

In terms of equipment, here’s my rough thoughts below, as of the publish date only. Check with me if it’s after that, things are moving fast in Makerland!

No Budget (It’s the people stupid!)

  • A champion who’s job it is to champion the space, as a volunteer, or as part of their existing job.
  • Check out the book Invent to Learn from the library.
  • From the recycling bins: Cardboard, cups, bottles, etc. (Wash them!)
  • Donated stuff: old toys, glue guns, duct tape, office supplies, old electronics, bike parts, scrap wood, kitchen supplies, (often from soliciting parents, community, and business donors – you’d be shocked at how much stuff arrives if folks know kids will be using it at school!)
  • Space: With windows that open. An empty closet, garage, tent, shed, or make it mobile with donated bins
  • Furniture: Folding tables and old chairs or stools. They will take a beating!

$5000 to $10,000

(Prices assume 10-20% education discounts on sites, just ask and use your teacher work email).

  • At least a paid part time champion (existing teacher, new hired, staffer, etc)
  • All the above plus more kits, tools and supplies.
  • A sustained yearly supplies budget of about $3000.00 to $5000.00
  • At least one dedicated fast Mac or PC  and projector ($2500 or in a classroom already)
  • Student access to modern Web browser tools.
  • 3D Printer and supplies. 1 Afinia H480 ($1500), or 2 PrintrBot Metal Simples ($1500)
  • Vinyl Cutter and supplies. US Cutter ($500)
  • 8th? grade and up. All with good curriculum and support. My favorite for STEAM skills. starter kits ($100ea). For more STEM skills, Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit ($80). For more choices on configurations, Adafruit kits.
  • <6th? grade MakeMakey kits ($39ea) or Littlebits (expensive).
  • Sparkfun ProtoSnap E-Textiles Starter Kit ($24 each)
  • Sewing Machine (~$150)
  • Multimeter (~$30)
  • A few key tools (~$200)
  • Extra electronics (~$200)
  • New glue guns, tape, wire, string, tinfoil, office supplies, etc (~$300)
  • Existing or inexpensive folding tables and chairs, or stools and benches, a fan, lights. (~$600)

$10,000 to $50,000

  • Fulltime champion
  • All of the above, plus more kits, tools and supplies.
  • Out of my depth here, but I’m guessing a roughly 20% of initial budget for yearly supplies and IT (Spend $50K, need 10K year).
  • All of the above
  • Laser Cutter. Full Spectrum Laser cutter ($4000). Or Epilog Zing 30w Laser ($9000)
  • CNC rig? Or more electronics? Or more wearables?
  • Great furniture and lighting, natural hopefully, ($Lots)

$$$ Dreamy

MIT Fablab budget list

Basic Skills

  • Tinkering
  • Failing
  • Surfing the Web
  • Google searching
  • Shop safety
  • Documenting skills and habits. Finding files  and organizing them, and doing a little every day (videos, photos,  screenshots, writing summaries and notes with resources used and links. Exploring problems, surprises, solutions)

Some Software Thoughts (Thanks Jaymes Dec)

A computer that has, or can install and use:


Makerspace Expo Room at Dynamic Landscapes 2014 Conference in Burlington Vermont.

documentation, General, Projects

I co-coordinated, with Donna Sullivan-MacDonald of the Vermont Library Association, a Makerspace Expo Room at this years Dynamic Landscapes conference in Burlington, VT at Champlain College’s Fireside lounge.

The open format with hands-on activities, student projects and local Maker-folk turned out to be a great success! Here’s some media.

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 4.47.04 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 4.47.54 PM

Keynote speaker Gary Stager recording video of an excellent student maker project.

Keynote speaker Gary Stager recording video of an excellent student maker project.

IMG_3569 IMG_3570 IMG_3571 IMG_3572 IMG_3573 IMG_3575 IMG_3595 IMG_3597 IMG_3598 IMG_3599
IMG_3601 IMG_3602 IMG_3603 IMG_3604 IMG_3605 IMG_3606

Custom 3D printer swag. Dynamic Landscapes 2014 ring

Custom 3D printer swag. Dynamic Landscapes 2014 ring. Customized from thingiverse object:


Sink Sensor: PIR motion sensor, Arduino and LCD screen to help keep sink free of dishes.


Final Prototype


)The sink in my workplace gathers dirty dishes. This is a problem for the faculty and staff who use the kitchen daily. It’s natural that dishes will pile up because we have students, renters, and visiting faculty and staff who use the kitchen sporadically, usually during a rush on a break. Also, not everyone knows the rules of the kitchen, or that it’s okay to use the dishwasher.

Sink with Arduino PIR sensor to LCD screen sink monitor
Sink with Arduino PIR sensor to LCD screen sink monitor (above, center).

After posting a much clearer sign, the dirty dishes were reduced. I decided to go further and use an Arduino, PIR sensor and LCD screen, and to solve the problem both technologically and psychologically.

Arduino PIR sensor to LCD screen sink monitor

Close up Arduino PIR sensor to LCD screen sink monitor

The beta test revealed that the sensor is a bit sticky sometimes and doesn’t catch motion, and that the message it sends when it seems motion around sink of “Please do your dishes” didn’t work as well as the message “Thank you for doing all your dishes.” Proof that you do sometimes get more bees with honey.


Brattleboro Area Makers (BAM) visits and their 150 Watt Laser Cutter

General, Travel Reports

Our monthly meeting of Brattleboro Area Makers visited new Gilford Vermont makers, Elissa and Ryan, owners of Elissa and Ryan were kind enough to walk us through a quick laser cutter tutorial. They also showed us some of their excellent work. Impressive, educational and we got a “BAM” logo cut out of some scrap!

Brattleboro Area Makers gets a laser cut

Brattleboro Area Makers gets a laser cut

Brattleboro Area Makers gets a laser cut
Brattleboro Area Makers gets a laser cut

Brattleboro Area Makers gets a laser cut

Brattleboro Area Makers gets a laser cut


Healthy Toddler & Kid Food Tricks


Our son is almost two now and we’ve learned some tricks for sneaking in healthy foods he won’t usually eat, like green veggies and beans, into the food he loves.

We live in Vermont and try and have a very good diet with as much local, natural, and organic food as we can get/afford. We’re members of the local COOP, as well as a food buying cooperative and we have a garden. We also love comfort foods and I’ve got a weakness for salty snacks and pasta and my wife for chocolate and ice cream.

Our son of course loves mac and cheese, or as he says “mac-n-cheese-noodles-pasta!” and can seem to pick all the fatty chicken out of any surrounding vegetables and beans.

Here our our favorites tricks.

  1. Mash canned chick peas into mac and cheese! They are same color, not to noticeable, but filled with fiber and protein.
  2. Blanch fresh Kale or Spinach in hot water, de-stem, and puree into a pesto like mush. Add to Mac and Cheese. The vegetable parts are so small they stick to the cheese sauce and he doesn’t notice.
  3. While in full view at the table for entertainment value, put Cinnamon on apple slices, or mayo, mustard, catchup (depends on your kids preferences) on veggies, fish, etc. Our son will eat them to get to the “sauce” as he says.
  4. Pretend to sprinkle salt on peas, corn, carrots.
  5. Put little dab of butter on hot veggies and watch it disappear.
  6. Buy high fiber, whole wheat, Kraft or other brands that have started to have the choice.
  7. Hummus seems to work well with Triskets or other very simple 3 ingredient high fiber crackers.
  8. Use opening fun cans to attract. Norway, bristling (smallest kind) sardines are salty and smokey, but also incredibly good for growing humans due to their calcium, Omega 3s and other nutrients. We use King Oscar “cross pack bristling” in Olive Oil and BPA free cans.
  9. Add Shredded Wheat, or Naked Wheat squares crumbled up to vanilla yogurt. Or put a drop of honey on each one.
  10. Eat veggies and salad with joy at the table to model good behavior!

That’s it for now.